More than 50 amazing facts about swimming

The oldest swimming stroke is the breaststroke. It has been proven that the first stroke swimmers try is close to breaststroke.

First banned athlete.

The first athlete to be banned for the use of drugs was American swimmer Eleanor Holm, the 1932 Olympic 100m backstroke gold medallist. She was disqualified for being an alcoholic!

In the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. Japan’s Masaru Furukawa won Olympic gold by swimming the 200m breaststroke underwater, only coming up to breathe in the turns. David Berkoff entered the 100m backstroke in the American qualifiers for the Seoul Olympics. He won his races, setting two new world records, with a best time of 54.91 seconds. Berkoff spent most of his races underwater, surfacing 40m into his first length, and 20m into the second. He actually only swam on the surface for 40 metres.

Swimming strengthens the heart and lungs, can improve exercise-induced asthma and lowers stress and depression.

Swimming in saltwater can detoxify the skin and promote new cell growth.

Did you know swimmers sweat in the pool? Swimmers lose just as much sweat in the pool as any other athlete loses on land. It is ( for obvious reasons) difficult to determine just how much sweat swimmers actually lose in the water.

A little (unrelated to sport) joke. Do you know where  fish go when it rains? Under the bridge to keep dry. ?

The world currently has a population of 7.4 billion, more than half the world can not swim. It is estimated that 4 billion are unable to swim. Also, globally drowning accounts for 372,000 deaths!

The world’s youngest internationally competitive swimmer started competing at the age of 10. Alzain Tareq in 2015, became the world’s youngest competitive swimmer in a World Championships. The girl from Bahrain competed against swimmers who were twice her age. She finished her 50-metre butterfly meet in 41.13 seconds.

Women weren’t allowed to compete in Olympics until 1912. Swimming became an Olympic sport in 1896, but women were not allowed to participate until 1912. Fanny Durack, an Australian became the first woman to win a gold medal in the 100 freestyle.

Long distance open water swimmers have to answer the call of nature whilst competing. Some open swimmers have had to poop in the water during racing. Just in case any opener water swimmer tries to tell you the fish eat it. They don’t, there is no species of fish that eats human excrement!

An extremely hairy swimmer might get a bit of an advantage by shaving their entire body but generally there are no performance gains to be had from shaving. Many swimmers shave to look better in a suit, and studies suggest that shaving actually increases the sensitivity of a swimmer’s skin in the water. This hyper-awareness allows swimmers to “feel the water” and adjust to improve technique.

Swimmers use nearly every muscle in their bodies.

The Titanic was the first ocean liner to have a swimming pool.

The first ever swimming race was held more than 2050 years ago dating back to 36BC in Japan.

More than half of world-class swimmers suffer from shoulder pain.

Breaststroke is the slowest Olympic swimming stroke, freestyle (front crawl) the fastest

The 1988 Seoul Olympic games has the rather illogically titled sport of solo synchronised swimming.

Swimmers find their bodies drag through the water and create drag. Bodysuits reduce drag resistance by 7%, technologies in swimsuit design led to faster times and it is for that reason they were banned.

The 1900 Paris games had a ‘holding your breath underwater event’, and also a ‘swimming obstacle race’.

Banned for his tattoo.

Josef Craig was banned from a S8, 100m freestyle swimming final for having an Olympic logo tattooed on his chest. This constituted advertising, as he is a Paralympian and not an Olympian. Had he the Paralympic logo of the two agitos, I presume he would have been OK?

Some freedivers can hold their breath for more than 10 minutes. With a bit or training and a healthy body 2 minutes is quite attainable for normal people. A good freediver can hold his/her breath for as long as 10 minutes. The world record for breath-holding is 22 minutes, which is currently held by Stig Severinsen.

The average high school swimmer swims 1 million strokes per season.

Swimmers can flex their toes to the ground. Flexibility is extremely import for range of movement and swimming efficiency. Foot and ankle flexion is extremely important for swim performance, swimmers work hard on increasing the toe-point. Swimmers can sit or lay down with their legs stretched out in front of them and point their toes all the way down to the ground. Whilst keeping their heels on the ground.

The odds of swimming in the Olympics are not good. If you lived in the USA with a population of about 330 million, on average 1850 swimmers will make it to the Olympic trials. Of those swimmers, only about 50 of them will actually make the Olympic swim team.

Both breaststroke and butterfly require the swimmer to finish two handed when touching the end of the pool. A single-handed finish results in a disqualification. Some swimmers don’t cut their fingernails short in order to be able to complete the race in a faster time!

In the opening ceremony of the 1908 games in London, the Australian swimming team paraded in their swimming kit and even walked around the arena in bare feet!

Wouldn’t competitive swimming be more exciting if there was a loud bang or even a gunshot to start the races? It might sound more exciting but the bleep you hear was designed with pool acoustics in mind. It echoes less and helps prevent false starts.

Tarzan prevents a clean sweep.

In the Los Angeles games of 1932, the Japanese swimmers almost completed a clean sweep (winning all the races). The person to foil their attempt was none other than Tarzan. Buster Crabbe won the 400m freestyle event. There has also been another Tarzan in the Olympics with Johnny Weissmuller winning five swimming golds in Paris, 1924. In Montreal during the 1976 Olympic Games, Team USA nearly won a clean sweep of all the men’s gold medals. They won 12 of the 13 available. The man to stop them winning the lot was Great Britain’s David Wilkie in the 200m breaststroke.

Addicted to swimming.

I used to be addicted to swimming but I’m very proud to say I’ve been dry for six years.

Swimmer Zoltan Halmay from Hungary clearly beat the American J Scott Leary in the 50m freestyle event in St Louis Games of 1904. A cheating USA official awarded the race to the American. Incensed by the decision Halmay started fighting Leary, a rematch was ordered, and justice prevailed when Halmay won the re-race. Halmay also won the men’s 100m freestyle at the same games.

Swimmer Henry Taylor was one of Great Britain’s greatest ever Olympians. In the 1906 Interim Olympic games in Athens, Taylor won gold, silver and bronze medals, three Golds at the 1908 London games, a bronze at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, and a bronze at Antwerp in 1920. In growing up, he was so poor he could only afford to swim in Chadderton baths on ‘dirty water days’, this was because the entrance fee was cheaper. As an amateur, he had little time to train and would swim in the reservoir near the mill where he worked in his lunch hour and after work in his local boating lake. His haul of three golds in one games was a feat that remained unmatched by any Briton for a century. That was until Sir Chris Hoy matched him by winning three cycling golds in Beijing.

As an incentive to the swimmers, the 1984 Los Angeles games had both A and B finals. The Olympic medals were contested in the A final with the supposed fastest qualifiers. In the 400m freestyle event a B finalist, Thomas Fahrner of West Germany put in an amazing swim and actually finished with a Olympic record time that would have won the A final and the gold medal!

You can swim any stroke in a freestyle race.

In butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke, competitive swimmers can be disqualified for performing the arm techniques or kick incorrectly. In the freestyle event, virtually any technique is permitted. In the medley relay the freestyle leg must be completed in the traditional front crawl technique.

Today a man knocked on my door and asked for a small donation towards the local swimming pool. I gave him a glass of water.

Swimmers go faster underwater than on the surface!

Swimmers go faster underwater than on the surface! In the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. Japan’s Masaru Furukawa won Olympic gold by swimming the 200m breaststroke underwater, only coming up to breathe in the turns. David Berkoff entered the 100m backstroke in the American qualifiers for the Seoul Olympics. He won his races, setting two new world records, with a best time of 54.91 seconds. Berkoff spent most of his races underwater, surfacing 40m into his first length, and 20m into the second. He actually only swam on the surface for 40 metres. There are several factors that allow swimmers to go faster underwater. Very simply they are

  • Friction -This is the friction between the water on the swimmers body. This friction is produced by surface movements that bring the swimmer’s body into contact with a greater surface area of water.
  • Form drag- This could also be called hydrodynamics. Water is much denser than air and its resistance is 1,000 times higher than that of air. When a swimmer is underwater, their position favours penetration into the masses of water, thereby producing more efficient gliding than on the surface.
  • Wave drag – Swimmers at depths greater than half a metre avoid wave drag. Believe it or not there are waves in the swimming pool, you can’t surf on them, but they are there. The energy dissipated by surface waves slows down forward movement. By passing beneath this wave turbulence, underwater swimming is more efficient.

For several reasons including safety and the sport of swimming as a spectacle, FINA (World Governing Body of Swimming) came up with an appropriate restriction. Today, swimmers cannot remain submerged for more than 15 metres after a start or a turn. The 15-metre limit (shown by a line hanging above the pool) is measured to the swimmer’s feet, not the head.

The first known record of people swimming dates back to Egyptian drawings from 2500 BC, with stone age paintings in the Cave of Swimmers dating back even further.

One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin invented swim fins to help swimmers move through the water more efficiently.

An outdoor swimming pool was added to the White House in 1975 by President Gerald Ford.

Most competitive swimmers swim 6-12 miles a day.

An Olympic pool can hold up to 850,000 gallons of water.

Matthew Webb, a 27-year-old merchant navy captain was the first person to swim the English Channley this was in 1875. Gertrude Ederle was the first woman to swim the English Channel, in 1926.

Mark Spitz beat the record for the most gold medals in one Olympic games when he won 7 gold medals at the 1972 games. However along came Michael Phelps and in 2008 Beijing games Phelps haul was an incredible 8 golds!

  • Gold medal – first place  200 m freestyle                 1:42.96 (WR)
  • Gold medal – first place  100 m butterfly                 50.58 (OR)
  • Gold medal – first place  200 m butterfly                 1:52.03 (WR)
  • Gold medal – first place  200 m medley                    1:54.23 (WR)
  • Gold medal – first place  400 m medley                    4:03.84 (WR)
  • Gold medal – first place  4×100 m freestyle            3:08.24 (WR)
  • Gold medal – first place  4×200 m freestyle            6:58.56 (WR)
  • Gold medal – first place  4×100 m medley               3:29.34 (WR)

Some of the largest swimming pools that have been made are the Moskva Pool (Moscow Pool now closed) which opened in 1960, it had a one-of-a-kind circular pool had a diameter of 130 meters and capacity of twenty thousand people. The San Alfonso del Mar resort in Chile has a pool 1,013 metres (3,324 ft) in length with a total area of 8 hectares The longest swimming pool is in Casablanca, Morocco. It is 480 metres long and 75 meters wide.

Competitive swimming became more popular after World War I, when “long john”-style swimming costumes went out of fashion. The first topless male swimming suits were worn in America in 1935.

Home swimming pools became popular after World War II, when Hollywood movies from synchronized swimming start Esther Williams made them more desirable.

Swimming was known to be a noble skill for Japanese samurai.

In one hour, swimming burns about 40% more calories than biking and about 30% more calories than running per hour.

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